Chapter 5

Arthur W. Pink

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Romans 11:33 (ESV)

“SALVATION is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). But the Lord doesn’t save everyone. Why not? He does save some. If He saves some, why doesn’t He save others? Is it because they are too sinful and depraved? No; because as the apostle wrote, 15 “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost,” 1 Timothy 1:15 (ESV.) Therefore, if God saved the “foremost” of sinners, no sinners are excluded because of their sinfulness. Why then doesn’t God save all sinners? Is it because some are too stony-hearted to be won over? No; because of the most stony-hearted people of all, God said 19 “…I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 11:19 (NIV) Then, is it because some are so stubborn, so stubborn and so defiant that God is unable to woo them to Himself? Before we answer this question let’s ask another one. And let’s appeal to your own personal experience, my Christian reader.

Take a moment and think about it; wasn’t there a time when you walked in the counsel of the ungodly, stood in the way of sinners, sat in the seat of the scorners, and with them said, something such as 14 “We do not want this man to reign over us,” Luke 19:14 (ESV) Wasn‘t there a time when you “would not come to Christ so that you might have life” (John 5:40)? Wasn’t there a time when you joined your voice with those who said to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways. 15 What is the Almighty that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’ Job 21:14-15 (ESV). With a shamed face you have to acknowledge there was. But how is it that everything is now changed? What was it that brought you from being proud and self sufficient person to becoming a humble suppliant, from one that was at enmity with God, to a person who is at peace with Him, from lawlessness to subjection, and from hate to love? And, as one who has been ‘born of the Spirit,’ you will readily reply, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Notice that it isn’t due to a lack of power in God, nor to His refusal to coerce man, that other rebels aren’t also saved. If God was able to subdue your will and win your heart, and do so without interfering with your moral responsibility, then is He not able to do the same for others? Of course He is. Then how inconsistent, how illogical, how foolish of you, in seeking to account for the present course of the wicked and their ultimate fate, to argue that God is unable to save them, because they will not let Him. Do you say, “But the time came when I was willing, willing to receive Christ as my Savior”? That’s certainly true, but it was the Lord who made you willing, (Psalm 110:3; Philippians 2:13). But why then doesn’t He make all sinners willing? For no other reason than the fact that He is sovereign and does as He pleases! Now let’s return to our opening inquiry.

Why is it that all people aren’t saved, particularly all those who hear the Gospel? Do you still answer it’s because the majority of them refuse to believe? Well, that’s certainly true, but it’s only a part of the truth. It’s the truth from the human side. But there is a Divine side also, and this side of the truth needs to be stressed or God will be robbed of His glory. The unsaved are lost because they refuse to believe; the others are saved because they believe. But why do these others believe? What is it that causes them to put their trust in Christ? Is it because they are more intelligent than the others, and quicker to discern their need of salvation? Perish the thought— 7“…For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?,” 1 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV.) It is God Himself who makes the difference between the elect and the non-elect, because of His own people it’s written, 20“…We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true–even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life,” 1 John 5:20 (NIV). Faith is God’s gift, but “all men do not have faith,” (2 Thessalonians 3:2); therefore, we see that God doesn’t bestow this gift upon everyone. Upon whom then does He bestow this saving favor? And we answer, upon His own elect—“As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Hence we read of “the faith of God’s elect” (Titus 1:1). But is God partial in the distribution of His favors? If He is; doesn’t He have the right to be partial? Are there still some who ‘mumble at the master of the house’? His own words are a sufficient reply— 15 “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?”Matthew 20:15 (ESV) God is sovereign in bestowing His gifts, both in the natural and in the spiritual realms. So much then for a general statement. Now allow me to particularize.


Perhaps the one Scripture which most emphatically asserts the absolute sovereignty of God in connection with His determining the destiny of His creatures is the ninth chapter of Romans. We won’t attempt to review the entire chapter, but will confine ourselves to verses 21-23— 21“Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory,”– Romans 9:21-23 (NIV). These verses represent fallen mankind as being inert and as impotent as a lump of lifeless clay. This Scripture provides evidence that there is “no difference,” in themselves, between the elect and the non-elect: they are clay of “the same lump,” which agrees with Ephesians 2:3, where we are told, that 3 “…We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind, “Ephesians 2:3 (ESV). It teaches us that the ultimate destiny of every individual is decided by the will of God, and blessed it is that such is the case. If it were left to our wills, the ultimate destination of all of us would be the Lake of Fire. It declares that God Himself does make a difference in the respective destinations to which He assigns His creatures. For instance, one object, which he has born with great patience and made an object of his wrath—prepared for destruction, but also in order to make the riches of his glory known, another as an object of his mercy prepared in advance for glory.”

We readily acknowledge that it is very humbling to the proud heart of the creature to behold all mankind in the hand of God as the clay is in the potter’s hand, yet this is precisely how the Scriptures of Truth represent the case. In this day of human boasting, intellectual pride, and adoration of man, it needs to be insisted upon that the potter forms his objects for Himself. Let man strive with his Maker as he will, the fact remains that he is nothing more than clay in the Heavenly Potter’s hands, and while we know that God will deal justly with His creatures, and that the Judge of all the earth will do right, nevertheless, He shapes His objects for His own purpose and according to His own pleasure. God claims the indisputable right to do as He wills with that which is His own. Furthermore, not only does God have the right to do whatever He wills with the creatures of His own hands, but He also exercises this right, and nowhere is that seen more plainly than in His predestinating grace. Before the foundation of the world God made a choice, a selection, an election so to speak. Before His omniscient eye stood the whole of Adam’s race, and from it He singled out a people and predestinated them “to be adopted as His children,” and predestinated them “to be conformed to the image of His Son,” and “ordained” them to be the recipients of eternal life. There are many Scriptures which set forth this blessed truth, seven of which will now engage our attention.

“As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” Acts 13:48). Every deception of human ingenuity has been employed to blunt the sharp edge of this Scripture and to explain away the obvious meaning of these words, but it has been employed in vain, even though nothing will ever be able to reconcile this and similar passages to the mind of the natural man. “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” Here we learn four things: The first is that believing is the consequence and not the cause of God’s decree. The second is that only a limited number are “ordained to eternal life,” because if all men without exception were ordained by God, then the words “as many as” are a meaningless requirement. Third is that this “ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to “eternal life,” and not to service but to salvation itself. Fourth is that all—“as many as,” not one less, but all who have been ordained by God to eternal life will most certainly believe.

The comments of the beloved Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the above passage are well worthy of our notice. He said, “Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination. However, these attempts so clearly do violence to the English language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read: ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed’, and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. Isn’t it God who gives people the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, then doesn’t He—in every single case dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it is right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today—and therefore since He never changes from eternity past.”

“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it is of works, then it isn’t grace: otherwise work isn’t work” (Romans 11:5, 6). The words “Even so” at the beginning of this quotation refer us to the previous verse where we are told, “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Note particularly the word “kept.” In the days of Elijah there were seven thousand—a small minority—who were Divinely preserved from idolatry and brought to the knowledge of the true God. This preservation and illumination was not from anything in themselves, but solely by God’s special influence and agency. How highly favored such individuals were to be thus “reserved” by God! Now says the apostle, just as there was a “remnant” in Elijah’s days “reserved by God”, even so there is in this present dispensation, “a remnant according to the election of grace.” Here the cause of election is traced back to its source. The basis upon which God elected this “remnant” was not faith foreseen in them, because a choice founded upon the foresight of good works is just as truly made on the ground of works as any choice can be, and in such a case, it would not be “of grace;” for, says the apostle, “if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace isn’t grace;” which means that grace and works are absolute opposites, they have nothing in common, and will no more blend together than oil will with water. Thus the idea of inherent good foreseen in those chosen, or of anything meritorious performed by them, is rigidly excluded. “A remnant according to the election of grace,” signifies an unconditional choice resulting from the sovereign favor of God. In a word, it is an absolutely gratuitous election.

26 “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (ESV) Three times in this passage reference is made to God’s choice, and choice necessarily supposes a selection, the selection of some and the leaving of others. The Chooser here is God Himself. The number chosen is strictly defined—“not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were of noble birth,” etc., which agrees with Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” So much then for the fact of God’s sovereign choice, now observe the objects of His choice.

Those people spoken of above as chosen by God are “the weak things of the world, base things of the world, and things which are despised.” But why them it may be asked? The Scripture tell us it is to demonstrate and magnify His grace. God’s ways as well as His thoughts are utterly at variance with man’s. The carnal mind would have supposed that the selection had been made from the ranks of the wealthy and influential, the amiable and cultured, so that Christianity might have won the approval and applause of the world by its pageantry and fleshly glory. Ah! But, “that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). God chooses the “base things.” He did so in Old Testament times. The nation which He singled out to be the depository of His holy oracles and the channel through which the promised Seed should come, wasn’t the ancient Egyptians, or the imposing Babylonians, nor the highly civilized and cultured Greeks. No; the people upon whom Jehovah set His love and regarded as ‘the apple of His eye’, were the despised, nomadic Hebrews. So it was when our Lord tabernacled among men. The ones whom He took into favored intimacy with Himself and commissioned to go forth as His ambassadors were, for the most part, unlettered fishermen. And so it has been ever since. So it is today [1928]: at the present rates of increase, it will not be long before it is manifested that the Lord has more true followers in despised China who are really His, than He has in the highly favored U. S. A.; more among the so-called uncivilized blacks of Africa, than He has in the allegedly cultured Germany! And the purpose of God’s choice, the raison d’être of the selection He has made is, “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” There is nothing whatever in the objects of His choice which would entitle them to His special favors. All the praise will be freely ascribed to the exceeding riches of His manifold grace. 3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,…11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, Ephesians 1:3-5, 11 (ESV) Here again we are told at what point in time—if time it could be called— when God chose those who were to be His children through Jesus Christ. It wasn’t after Adam had fallen and plunged his race into sin and wretchedness, but long before Adam even saw the light of day, even before the world itself was founded, that God chose us in Christ. Here we also learn the purpose which God had in connection with His own elect: it was that they “should be holy and without blame before Him (KJV);” it was “unto the adoption of children (KJV);” it was that they should “obtain an inheritance (KJV).” Here also we discover the motive which prompted Him. It was “in love that He predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself,”—a statement which refutes the often made and wicked charge that, for God to decide the eternal destiny of His creatures before they are born, is tyrannical and unjust. Finally, we are informed here, that in this matter He took counsel with no one, but that we are “predestinated according to the good pleasure of His will (KJV).” 13 “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV) There are three things here which deserve special attention. First is the fact that we are expressly told that God’s elect are “chosen to salvation.” This kind of language couldn’t be more explicit. How swiftly do these words dispose of the sophistries and equivocations of people who would make election refer to nothing but external privileges or rank in service! It is to “salvation” itself that God has chosen us. Secondly we’re warned that election unto salvation does not disregard the use of appropriate means: salvation is reached through “sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” It isn’t true that because God has chosen a certain person to salvation that he will be saved regardless of whether or not he believes: nowhere do the Scriptures represent it that way. The same God who predestined the end, also appointed the means. The same God who “chose unto salvation,” decreed that His purpose should be realized through the work of the Spirit and belief of the truth. Third is the fact that God has chosen us unto salvation and is therefore a profound cause for fervent praise. Note how strongly the apostle expresses this—“we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation (KJV),” etc. Instead of shrinking back in horror from the doctrine of predestination, the believer, when he sees this blessed truth as it is unfolded in the Word, discovers a ground for gratitude and thanksgiving such as nothing else affords, except the unspeakable gift of the Redeemer Himself. He 9 … “…Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,” 2 Timothy 1:9 (ESV). How plain and obvious is the language of Holy Writ! It is man who, by his words, darkens counsel. It is impossible to state the case more clearly, or strongly, than it is stated here. Our salvation is not “according to our works;” that is to say, it is not due to anything in us, nor is it a reward for anything from us; instead, it is the result of God’s own “purpose and grace;” and this grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began. It is by grace we are saved, and in the purpose of God this grace was bestowed upon us not only before we saw the light, not only before Adam’s fall, but even before that far distant “beginning” of Genesis 1:1. And herein lies the unassailable comfort of God’s people. If His choice has been from eternity it will last to eternity!

1 “…Elect …, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…” 1 Peter 1:1-2 (ESV). Here again election by the Father precedes the work of the Holy Spirit in, and the obedience of faith by, those who are saved; thus taking it entirely out of the creatures hands, and resting it in the sovereign pleasure of the Almighty. The “foreknowledge of God the Father” does not here refer to His foreknowledge of all things, but signifies that the saints were all eternally present in Christ before the mind of God. God did not “foreknow” that certain ones who heard the Gospel would believe it apart from the fact that He had “ordained” these certain ones to eternal life. What God’s foreknowledge saw in all men was their love of sin and their hatred of Him. The “foreknowledge” of God is based upon His own decrees as is crystal-clear from, 23 “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men, Acts 2:23 (ESV). Note the order here: first God’s “definite plan” (His decree), and second His “foreknowledge.” So it is again in Romans 8:28, 29, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son,” but the first word here, “for,” looks back to the preceding verse and the last clause of it reads, “to them who are the called according to His purpose”—these are the ones whom He “foreknew and did predestinate.” Finally, it needs to be pointed out that when we read in Scripture of God “knowing” certain people, the word is used in the sense of knowing with admiration and love: 3” But the man who loves God is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:3 (NIV) To the hypocrites Christ will say “I never knew you”—He never loved them. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” signifies, then, chosen by Him as the special objects of His esteem and love.

Summarizing the teaching of these seven passages we learn that, God has “ordained to eternal life” certain ones, and it is that in consequence of His ordaining them that they, in due time, “believe;” that God’s ordination to salvation of His own elect, is not due to any good thing in them nor to anything meritorious from them, but solely of His “grace.” That God has purposely selected the most unlikely objects to be the recipients of His special favors, in order that “no one may boast in His presence;” that God chose His people in Christ before the foundation of the world, not because they were so holy, but in order, “…that we would share in his holiness,” Hebrews 12:10 (ESV); that having selected certain people to be saved, He also decreed the means by which His eternal counsel should be made good; that the very “grace” by which we are saved was, in God’s eternal purpose, “given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began;” that long before they were actually created, God’s elect people existed in his mind. They were “foreknown” by Him, i.e., were the definite objects of His eternal love.

Before turning to the next division of this chapter, a further word is necessary concerning the subjects of God’s predestinating grace. We’ll go over this ground again because it is at this point that the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in predestining certain ones to salvation is most frequently assaulted. Perverters of this truth invariably seek to find some cause outside of God’s own will, which moves Him to bestow salvation on sinners; something or other is attributed to the creature which entitles him to receive mercy at the hands of the Creator. Let’s return then to the question, why did God choose the ones He did?

What was there in the elect themselves which attracted God’s heart to them? Was it because of certain virtues they possessed? Could it have been because they were generous-hearted, sweet tempered, truth-speaking? Bottom line, was it because they were “good,” that God chose them? No; for our Lord said, “There is none good but one, that is God,” (Matthew 19:17). Was it because of any good works they had performed? No; for it is written, “No one does good,” Romans 3:12). Was it because they gave evidence of an earnestness and zeal in searching for God? No; for it is written again, “No one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11). Was it because God foresaw they would believe? No; because how can those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” believe in Christ? How could God foreknow some men as believers when belief was impossible for them? Scripture declares that we “believe through grace,” (Acts 18:27). Faith is God’s gift, and apart from this gift none would believe. The cause of His choice then lies within Himself and not in the objects of His choice. He chose the ones He did simply because He chose to choose them.

“Sons we are by God’s election,
Who on Jesus Christ believe;
By eternal destination,
Sovereign grace we now receive,
Lord Thy mercy,
Doth both grace and glory give!”

(From The Gospel Magazine, 1777)


For whom did Christ die? It surely does not need arguing that the Father had a specific purpose in giving Him to die, or that God the Son had a definite design before Him in laying down His life— “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). What then was the purpose of the Father and the design of the Son? We answer, Christ died for “God’s elect.”

We are not unmindful of the fact that the limited design in the death of Christ has been the subject of much controversy—what great truth revealed in Scripture has not generated controversy? Nor do we forget that anything which has to do with the person and work of our blessed Lord requires it to be handled with the utmost reverence, and that a “Thus saith the Lord” must be given in support of every assertion we make. Our appeal shall be to the Law and to the Testimony.

For whom did Christ die? Who were the ones He intended to redeem by His blood-shedding? Surely the Lord Jesus had some absolute determination before Him when He went to the Cross. If He had, then it necessarily follows that the extent of that purpose was limited, because an absolute determination or purpose must be effected. If the absolute determination of Christ included all mankind, then all mankind would most certainly be saved. To escape this inevitable conclusion many have affirmed that there was no such absolute determination by Christ, that in His death a merely conditional provision of salvation has been made for all mankind. The refutation of this assertion is found in the promises made by the Father to His Son before He went to the Cross, yea, before He became incarnate. The Old Testament Scriptures represent the Father as promising the Son a certain reward for His sufferings on behalf of sinners. At this stage we shall confine ourselves to one or two statements recorded in the well known fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. There we find God saying, 10 “… when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring;” and that 11 “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;” and that God’s righteous Servant shall; “make many to be accounted righteous.” Isaiah 53:10-11 (ESV) But here we pause and ask, How could it be certain that Christ would “see His offspring,” and “see out of the anguish of His soul and be satisfied,” unless the salvation of certain members of the human race had been Divinely decreed, and therefore was absolutely certain? How could it be certain that Christ would make many accounted righteous,” if no effective provision was made that any should receive Him as their Savior? On the other hand, to insist that the Lord Jesus did expressly purpose the salvation of all mankind, is to charge Him with that which no intelligent being should be guilty of, namely, to design that which by virtue of His omniscience He knew would never come to pass. Hence, the only alternative left us is that, so far as the pre-determined purpose of His death is concerned, Christ died for the elect only. Summing up in a sentence, which we trust will be intelligible to every reader, we would say, Christ died not merely to make possible the salvation of all mankind, but to make certain the salvation of all that the Father had given to Him, John 6: 37;39. Christ didn’t die simply to render sins pardonable, but “…to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” (Hebrews 9:26). As to who’s “sin” (i.e., guilt, as in 1 John 1:7, etc.) has been “put away,” Scripture leaves us in no doubt—it was that of the elect, the “world” (John 1:29) of God’s people!

(1)Without a doubt, the limited design in the Atonement necessarily follows from the eternal choice of the Father of certain people to be saved through His Son. The Scriptures inform us that, before the Lord became incarnate He said, 7 “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,” Hebrews 10:7 (ESV) and after He become incarnate He declared,38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me,” John 6:38 (ESV). If then God had from the beginning chosen certain people to be saved, then, because the will of Christ was in perfect accord with the will of the Father, Christ would not seek to add to the number of persons He had elected. What we have just said is not merely a plausible deduction of our own, but is in strict harmony with the express teaching of the Word. Again and again our Lord referred to those whom the Father had “given” Him, and of those whom He was particularly concerned, said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:39, 39 (ESV) And again, 1 “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” … .6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”…. 9 “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” …. 24 “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:1,2,6,9,24 (ESV) Before the foundation of the world the Father predestinated certain people to be conformed to the image of His Son, and the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus was absolutely necessary in order to carry out the Divine purpose.

(2) The very nature of the Atonement evidences that, in its application to sinners, it was limited in the purpose of God. The Atonement of Christ may be considered from two chief viewpoints—Godward and manward. Godwards, the Cross-work of Christ was propitiation, an appeasing of Divine wrath, a satisfaction rendered to Divine justice and holiness; manwards, it was a substitution, the Innocent taking the place of the guilty, the Just dying for the unjust. But a strict substitution of one Person for other people, and the infliction upon Himself of voluntary sufferings, involve the definite recognition on the part of the Substitute and of the One He is to propitiate of the persons for whom He acts, those whose sins He bears, and whose legal obligations He discharges. Furthermore, if the Law-giver accepts the satisfaction which is made by the Substitute, then those for whom the Substitute acts, all those people whose place He takes, must necessarily be acquitted. If I am in debt and unable to discharge it and another person comes forward and pays my creditor in full and receives a receipt in acknowledgment, then, in the sight of the law, my creditor no longer has any claim upon me. On the Cross the Lord Jesus gave Himself a ransom and the fact that it was accepted by God was confirmed by the open grave three days later. The question we would raise here is for whom was this ransom offered? If it was offered for all mankind then the debt incurred by every man has been cancelled. If Christ bore in His own body on the tree the sins of all men without exception, then none will perish. If Christ was “made a curse” for all of Adam’s race then none are now “under condemnation.” “God cannot demand payment twice; first at my bleeding Surety’s hand and then again at mine.” But Christ did not discharge the debt of all men without exception, because there are some who will be “cast into prison” (cf.1 Peter 3:19 where the same Greek word for “prison” occurs), and they shall “never get out until you have paid the last penny,” Matthew 5:26 (ESV) which, of course, will never be. Christ did not bear the sins of all mankind, because there are those who “die in their sins” (John 8:21), and whose “sin remains” (John 9:41). Christ was not “made a curse” for all of Adam’s race, because there are some to whom He will yet say, “Depart from Me ye cursed,” (Matthew 25:41). To say that Christ died for all alike, to say that He became the Substitute and Surety of the whole human race, to say that He suffered on behalf of and instead of all mankind, is to say that He “bore the curse for many who are now bearing the curse for themselves; that He suffered punishment for many who are now lifting up their own tormented eyes in Hell, and that He paid the redemption price for many who shall yet pay in their own eternal anguish ‘the wages of sin, which is death’” (G. S. Bishop). But, on the other hand, to say as Scripture says, that Christ was stricken for the transgressions of God’s people, to say that He gave His life for the sheep, to say that He gave His life a ransom for many, is to say that He made an atonement which fully atones; it is to say He paid a price which actually ransoms; it is to say He was set forth a propitiation which really propitiates; it is to say He is a Savior who truly saves.

(3.) Closely connected with, and in confirmatory with what we have already said is the teaching of Scripture concerning our Lord’s priesthood. Now it is as the great High Priest that Christ makes intercession. But for whom does He intercede? Was it for the whole human race, or only for His people? The answer furnished by the New Testament to this question is as clear as a sunbeam. Our Savior has entered into heaven itself “now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24), that is, for those who are “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Hebrews 3:1). And again it is written, 25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 (ESV) This is in strict accord with the Old Testament type. After slaying the sacrificial animal, Aaron went into the holy of holies as the representative of and on behalf of the people of God: it was the names of Israel’s tribes which were engraven on his breastplate, and it was in their interests that he appeared before God. Agreeable to this are our Lord’s words in John 17:9 (ESV) “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” Another Scripture which deserves careful attention in this connection is found in Romans 8. In verse 33 the question is asked, 33 “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” followed by the inspired answer— “It is God who justifies.” Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, or rather who has risen again, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us,” (ESV). Note particularly that the death and intercession of Christ have one and the same objective! As it was in the type so it is with the antitype—atonement and supplication are co-extensive. If then, Christ intercedes for the elect only, and “not for the world,” then He died only for them.

(4.) The number of those who share the benefits of Christ’s death is determined not only by the nature of the Atonement and the priesthood of Christ but also by His power. Grant that the One who died upon the cross was God manifest in the flesh and it follows inevitably that what Christ has purposed He will perform; that those people He has purchased are those He will possess; that which He has set His heart upon is that which will He secure. If the Lord Jesus possesses all power in heaven and earth, then no one can successfully resist His will. But it may be said, this is true in the abstract, nevertheless, Christ refuses to exercise this power, inasmuch as He will never force anyone to receive Him as their Savior. In one sense that is true, but in another sense it is positively untrue. The salvation of any sinner is a matter of Divine power. By nature the sinner is at enmity with God, and nothing but Divine power operating within him, can overcome this enmity; hence it is written, “No man can come unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draws him,” (John 6:44). It is the Divine power overcoming the sinner’s innate enmity which makes him willing to come to Christ in order that he might have life. But this “enmity” is not overcome in everyone—why? Is it because the enmity is too strong to be overcome? Are there some hearts so steeled against Him that Christ is unable to gain entrance? To answer in the affirmative is to deny His omnipotence. In the final analysis it is not a question of the sinner’s willingness or unwillingness, because by nature everyone is unwilling. Willingness to come to Christ is the finished product of Divine power operating in the human heart and will in overcoming man’s inherent and chronic “enmity,” as it is written, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power,”(Psalm 110:3). To say that Christ is unable to win to Himself those who are unwilling is to deny that all power in heaven and earth is His. To say that Christ cannot put forth His power without destroying man’s responsibility is a begging of the question just raised, for He has put forth His power and made willing those who have come to Him, and if He did this without destroying their responsibility, why “cannot” He do so with others? If He is able to win the heart of one sinner to Himself; then why can’t He win that of another sinner? To say, as is usually said, the others will not let Him is to impeach His sufficiency. It is a question of His will. If the Lord Jesus has decreed, desired, and purposed the salvation of all mankind, then the entire human race will be saved, or, otherwise, He lacks the power to make good His intentions; and in such a case it could never be said, “He shall see of the anguish of His soul and be satisfied.” The issue raised involves the deity of the Savior, because a defeated Savior cannot be God.

Having reviewed some of the general principles which require us to believe that the death of Christ was limited in its design, we turn now to consider some of the explicit statements of Scripture which expressly affirm it. In that wondrous and matchless eight verse of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah we are told concerning His Son: 8 “By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.” (ESV) In perfect harmony with this was the word of the angel to Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) i.e. not merely Israel, but all whom the Father had “given” Him. Our Lord Himself declared, “The Son of Man came not to be served to but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28), but why did He say “for many” if everyone without exception was included? It was “His people” whom He “redeemed” (Luke 1:68). It was for “the sheep,” and not the “goats”, that the Good Shepherd gave His life, (John 10:11). It was the “Church of God” which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

If there is one Scripture more than any other upon which we ought to be willing to rest our case it is John 11:49-52. Here we are told, “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. John 11:49-52 (ESV) Here we are told that Caiaphas “prophesied not of his own accord.,” Caiaphas did just as those who were employed by God in Old Testament times did, (see 2 Peter 1:21). They spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Thus is the value of his carefully guarded utterance, and the Divine source of this revelation is absolutely guaranteed. Here, too, we are definitely informed that Christ died for “that nation,” i.e., Israel, and also for the One Body, His Church. It is into the Church that the children of God—“scattered” among the nations— are now being “gathered together in one.” Isn’t it remarkable that the members of the Church are here called “children of God” before Christ died, and therefore even before He commenced to build His Church! The vast majority of those people hadn’t even been born, and yet they were regarded as children of God;” children of God because they had been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and therefore “predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself” (Ephesians 1:4, 5). In a similar manner, Christ said, “I have other sheep (not “shall have”) that are not of this fold,” (John 10:16). If ever the real design of the Cross was uppermost in the heart and speech of our blessed Savior it was during the last week of His earthly ministry. What then do those Scriptures which treat this portion of His ministry record in connection with our present inquiry? They say, “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end, John 13:1 (ESV.) They tell us how He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13). They record His word, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (John 17:19); which means, that for the sake of His own, those “given” to Him by the Father, He separated for Himself through His death on the Cross. One may well ask why there is such discrimination of terms if Christ died for all men indiscriminately.

Before closing this section of the chapter we shall consider briefly a few of those passages which seem to teach most strongly an unlimited design in the death of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 we read, “One has died for all.” But that is not all this Scripture affirms. If the entire verse and passage from which these words are quoted is carefully examined, it will be found that instead of teaching an unlimited atonement, it emphatically argues a limited design in the death of Christ. The whole verse reads, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;” 2 Corinthians 5:14 (ESV.) It should be pointed out that in the Greek there is the definite article before the last “all,” and that the verb here is in the aorist tense, and therefore should read, “We thus judge: that if One died for all, then they all died.” The apostle is drawing a conclusion as is clear from the words “we thus judge, that if… then were. “His meaning is that those for whom the One died are regarded, judicially, as having died too. The next verse goes on to say, “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised, 2 Corinthians 5:15 (ESV).The One not only died but “rose again,” and so, too, did the “all” for whom He died, because as it says here they “who live.” Those for whom a substitute acts are legally regarded as having acted themselves. In the sight of the law the substitute and those whom he represents are one. So it is in the sight of God. Christ was identified with His people and His people were identified with Him, hence when He died they died (judicially) and when He rose they rose also. But further on we are told in this passage (v. 17), “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come, 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV). He has received a new life in fact as well as in the sight of the law, and so the “all” for whom Christ died are told here to live from now on no longer for themselves, “but for Him who died for them, and then rose again.” In other words, those who belonged to this “all” for whom Christ died are encouraged to manifest in their daily lives that which is true of them judicially: “They are no longer to live for themselves but for him.” Thus the “One who died for all” is defined for us. The “all” for which Christ died are they which “live,” and which are told here to live “for Him.” This passage therefore teaches three important truths, and to better illustrate its scope we mention them in their inverse order: certain ones are here told to live no more for themselves but for Christ; the ones admonished are “they which live,” that is to live spiritually, hence, the children of God, for it is they alone out of all of mankind who possess spiritual life, all others are dead in trespasses and sins; those who do live like this are the ones, the “all,” the “them,” for whom Christ died and rose again. This passage therefore teaches that Christ died for all His people, the elect, those given to Him by the Father; that as the result of His death (and rising again “for them”) they “live”—and the elect are the only ones who actually “live;” and this life which is theirs through Christ must be lived “for Him,” Christ’s love must now “constrain” them.

“For there is one God, and one Mediator, between God and men” (not “man,” because this would have been a generic term which signified mankind. O the accuracy of Holy Writ!), 5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, (“not man”) 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (ESV). It is upon the words “who gave Himself a ransom for all” we will now comment. In Scripture the word “all” (as applied to humankind) is used in two senses—absolutely and relatively. In some passages it means all without exception; in others it signifies all without distinction. As to which of these meanings it bears in any particular passage, must be determined by the context and decided by a comparison of parallel Scriptures. That the word “all” is used in a relative and restricted sense, and in such case means all without distinction and not all without exception, is clear from a number of Scriptures, from which we select two or three as examples. “And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins, Mark 1:5 (ESV). Does this mean that every man, woman and child from “all the land of Judea and those of Jerusalem” were baptized by John in the river Jordan? Of course not! “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves by not having been baptized by him,” Luke 7:30 (ESV). What then does “all baptized by him” mean? We answer it does not mean all without exception, but all without distinction, that is, all classes and conditions of men. The same explanation applies to Luke 3:21. Again we read, “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, Luke 3:21 (ESV.) Again we read, “Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them,” John 8:2 (ESV) Are we to understand this expression absolutely or relatively? Does “all the people” mean all without exception or all without distinction, that is, all classes and conditions of people? Obviously it was the latter because the Temple wasn’t able to accommodate everybody that was in Jerusalem at the time to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. Again, we read in Acts 22:15 (ESV) “For you (Paul) will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.” Surely “all men” here does not mean every member of the human race. Now we submit that the words “who gave Himself a ransom for all” in 1 Timothy 2:6 mean all without distinction, and not all without exception. He gave Himself a ransom for men of all nationalities, of all generations, of all classes; in a word, for all the elect, as we read in Revelation 5:9 (ESV). “… for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” Revelation 5:9 (ESV). That this is not an arbitrary definition of the “all” in our passage is clear from Matthew 20:28 (ESV) where we read, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Such a limitation would be quite meaningless if He gave Himself a ransom for all without exception. Furthermore, the qualifying words here, “which is the testimony given “at the proper time,” 1 Timothy 2:6 must be taken into consideration. If Christ gave Himself as a ransom for the whole human race, in what sense will this be the testimony given at the proper time, seeing that multitudes of men will certainly be eternally lost? But if our text means that Christ gave Himself a ransom for God’s elect, for all of them without distinction of nationality, social prestige, moral character, age or sex, then the meaning of these qualifying words is quite intelligible, for in “due time” this will be “testified” in the actual and accomplished salvation of every one of them. 9 “…But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9 (KJV). This passage need not detain us for very long. A false doctrine has been erected here on a false translation. There is no word whatever in the Greek corresponding to “man” in our English version. In the Greek it’s left in the abstract—“He tasted death for every.” The Revised Version has correctly omitted “man” from the text, but has wrongly inserted it in italics. Others suppose the word “thing” should be supplied—“He tasted death for everything” —but this, too, we deem a mistake. It seems to us that the words which immediately follow explain our text: “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” It is of “sons” that the apostle is writing, and we suggest an abbreviation of “son”—thus: “He tasted death for every”—and supply son in italics. Thus instead of teaching the unlimited design of Christ’s death, Hebrews 2:9, 10 is in perfect accord with the other Scriptures we have quoted which set forth the restricted purpose in the Atonement: it was for the “sons” and not the human race that our Lord “tasted death,” (1 John 2:2 will be examined in detail in Appendix 4). In closing this section of the chapter let us say that the only limitation in the Atonement we have contended for arises from pure sovereignty; it is a limitation not of value and virtue, but of design and application. We turn now to consider—


Since the Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons in the blessed Trinity, it necessarily follows that He is in full sympathy with the will and design of the other Persons of the Godhead. The eternal purpose of the Father in election, the limited design in the death of the Son, and the restricted scope of the Holy Spirit’s operations are in perfect accord. If the Father chose certain ones before the foundation of the world and gave them to His Son, and if it was for them that Christ gave Himself a ransom, then the Holy Spirit is not now working to “bring the world to Christ.” The mission of the Holy Spirit in the world today is to apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. The question which we will now engage is not the extent of the Holy Spirit’s power—on that point there can be no doubt, it is infinite—but what we shall seek to show is that, His power and operations are directed by Divine wisdom and sovereignty.

We have just said that the power and operations of the Holy Spirit are directed by Divine wisdom and indisputable sovereignty. In proof of this assertion we appeal first to our Lord’s words to Nicodemus in John 3:8 (NIV)— “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” A comparison is drawn here between the wind and the Spirit. The comparison is a double one: first, both are sovereign in their actions, and second, both are mysterious in their operations. The comparison is pointed out in the word “so.” The first point of analogy is seen in the words “where it wishes” or “pleases”; the second is found in the words “you do not know.” With the second point of analogy we are not now concerned, but upon the first we would comment further. “The wind blows where it wishes… so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” The wind is an element which man can neither harness nor hinder. The wind neither consults man’s pleasure nor can it be regulated by his devices. So it is with the Spirit. The wind blows when it wishes, where it wishes, as it wishes. So it is with the Spirit. The wind is regulated by Divine wisdom, yet, as far as man is concerned, it is absolutely sovereign in its operations. So it is with the Spirit. Sometimes the wind blows so softly it scarcely rustles a leaf; at other times it blows so loudly that its roar can be heard for miles. So it is in the matter of the new birth. With some the Holy Spirit deals ever so gently, that His work is imperceptible to human onlookers; with others His action is so powerful, radical, and revolutionary, that His operations are obvious to many. Sometimes the wind is purely local in its reach, at other times wide-spread in its scope. So it is with the Spirit: today He acts on one or two souls, tomorrow He may, as at Pentecost, “cut to the heart,” a whole multitude (Acts 2:37). But whether He works on a few or many, He doesn’t consult with man. He acts as He pleases. The new birth is due to the sovereign will of the Spirit.

Each of the three Persons in the blessed Trinity is concerned with our salvation: with the Father it is predestination; with the Son propitiation; with the Spirit regeneration. The Father chose us; the Son died for us and the Spirit makes us spiritually alive. The Father was concerned about us; the Son shed His blood for us, the Spirit performs His work within us. What the One did was eternal, what the Other did was external, what the Spirit does is internal. It is with the work of the Spirit we are now concerned, with His work in the new birth, and particularly His sovereign operations in the new birth. The Father purposed our new birth; the Son has made possible (by His “labor”) the new birth; but it is the Spirit who effects the new birth— “Born of the Spirit” (John 3:6).

The new birth is solely the work of God the Spirit and man has no part in causing it. This is the very nature of the case. Birth altogether excludes the idea of any effort or work on the part of the one who is born. Personally we have no more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our natural birth. The new birth is a spiritual resurrection, a “passing from death to life” (John 5:24) and, clearly, resurrection is altogether outside of man’s province. No corpse can re-animate itself. Hence it is written, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail,” John 6:63 (ESV). But the Spirit does not give “life” to everybody—why? The usual answer is because everybody does not trust in Christ. It is supposed that the Holy Spirit makes alive only those who believe. But this is to put the cart before the horse. Faith is not the cause of the new birth, but the consequence of it. There’s really nothing to argue about. Faith (in God) is unusual, something that is not native to the human heart. If faith were a natural product of the human heart, and simply the exercise of a principle which is common to human nature, it would never have been written, “Not all have faith,” 2 Thessalonians 3:2 (ESV). Faith is a spiritual grace, the fruit of the spiritual nature, and because the unregenerate are spiritually dead—“dead in trespasses and sins”—then it follows that to expect them to possess faith is impossible because a dead man cannot believe anything. “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8)—but they could if it were possible for the flesh to believe. Compare with this last-quoted Scripture Hebrews 11:6—“But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Can God be “pleased” or satisfied with any thing which does not have its origin in Himself?

That the work of the Holy Spirit precedes our believing is unequivocally established by 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV) — “…From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” Note that “sanctification of the Spirit” comes before and makes possible “belief in the truth.” What then is the “sanctification of the Spirit”? We answer the new birth. In Scripture “sanctification” always means “separation,” separation from something and unto something or someone. Let us now amplify our assertion that the “sanctification of the Spirit” corresponds to the new birth and points to the positional effect of it.

Imagine if you will a servant of God who preaches the Gospel to a congregation in which there are a hundred unsaved people. He brings before them the teaching of Scripture concerning their ruined and lost condition; he speaks of God, His character and righteous demands; he tells of Christ meeting God’s demands, and the Just dying for the unjust, and declares that through “this Man” is now preached the forgiveness of sins; he closes by urging the lost to believe what God has said in His Word and receive His Son as their own personal Savior. The service is over; the congregation disperses; ninety nine of the unsaved have refused to come to Christ that they might have life, and go out into the night having no hope, and without God in the world. But the hundredth heard the Word of life; the Seed sown fell into ground which had been prepared by God; he believed the Good News, and goes home rejoicing that his name is written in heaven. He has been “born again,” and just as a newly-born babe in the natural world begins life by clinging instinctively, in its helplessness, to its mother, so this newborn soul has clung to Christ. Just as we read, “The Lord opened” the heart of Lydia “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul,” Acts 16:14 (ESV), so it is in the hypothetical case offered above, the Holy Spirit had already made alive that particular one before he believed the Gospel message. [A] Here then is the “sanctification of the Spirit:” this one soul who has been born again has, by virtue of his new birth, been separated from the other ninety-nine. Those born again are, by the Spirit, set apart from those who are dead in trespasses and sins.

Returning to 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” The order of thought here is most important and instructive. First is God’s eternal choice, second is the sanctification of the Spirit and the third is a belief of the truth. Precisely the same order is found in 1 Peter 1:2 (ESV)—“… elect…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood,” which appropriates the virtues of the sprinkled blood of the Lord Jesus. So then before the “obedience” (of faith, cf. Hebrews 5:9), there is the work of the Spirit setting us apart, and behind that is the election of God the Father. The ones “sanctified of the Spirit” then, are they whom “from the beginning God chose to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, those who are “…elect… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, 1 Peter 1:2 (ESV).

The Holy Spirit is sovereign in His operations and His saving mission is confined to God’s elect: they are the ones He “comforts,” “seals,” and guides into all truth, and who shows them things to come [B]. The work of the Spirit is necessary in order to completely accomplish the Father’s eternal purpose. Speaking hypothetically, but reverently, it could be said, that if God had done nothing more than given Christ to die for sinners, not a single sinner would ever have been saved. In order for any sinner to see his need of a Savior and be willing to receive the Savior he needs, the work of the Holy Spirit upon and within him is imperatively required. If God had done nothing more than given Christ to die for sinners and then sent forth His servants to proclaim salvation through Christ, leaving sinners entirely to themselves to accept or reject as they pleased, then every sinner would have rejected, because at heart every man hates God and is at enmity with Him. Therefore the work of the Holy Spirit was needed to bring the sinner to Christ, to overcome his innate opposition, and bring him to accept the provision God has made. By nature, God’s elect are children of wrath just as others (Ephesians 2:3), and as such their hearts are at enmity with God. But this “enmity” of theirs is overcome by the Spirit and it is in consequence of His regenerating work that they believe in Christ. Isn’t it clear then that the reason why others are left outside, is not only because they are unwilling to go in, but also because the Holy Spirit does not deal with them as He does with the elect? Isn’t it also obvious that the Holy Spirit is sovereign in the exercise of His power and that just as the wind “blows where it pleases”, so does the Holy Spirit operate where He pleases?

And now, summing it all up: we have sought to show the perfect consistency of God’s ways: that each Person in the Godhead acts in sympathy and in harmony with the Others. God the Father elected certain ones to salvation, God the Son died for the elect, and God the Spirit made the elect alive. Well may we sing:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

[A] The priority contended for is rather in the order of nature than of time, just as the effect must always be preceded by the cause. A blind man must have his eyes opened before he can see, and yet there is no interval of time between the one and the other. As soon as his eyes are opened, he sees. So a man must be born again before he can see “the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3). Seeing the Son is necessary to believing in Him. Unbelief is attributed to spiritual blindness—those who believed not the “report” of the Gospel “saw no beauty” in Christ that they should desire Him. The work of the Spirit in making alive one who is dead in sins precedes faith in Christ just as cause always precedes effect. No sooner is the heart turned toward Christ by the Spirit, than the Savior is embraced by the sinner.

[B] This is not to deny that the Spirit does work in a certain sense on those who remain unbelievers and finally perish. The Spirit may “strive” with the impenitent (Genesis 6:3) and men may resist His operations (Acts 7: 51, 52). There is a general work of the Holy Spirit upon those who hear the truth and which in some cases appears to be saving (Matthew 13: 5, 6, 20, 21) and yet because of unremoved enmity of the natural heart this work is ineffectual. And as all men are at enmity against God, the Spirit’s work would be ineffectual in all if He did not work in a special and regenerating manner in the elect, enabling those to believe those saving truths which “the natural man “does not accept,” (1 Corinthians 2:14))—The publishers—Banner of Truth Trust Revised Edition, Reprinted 1998.

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